As part of the blended learning strand for Connected Educator Month, a unique panel of experts provided recommendations for leadership and the implementation of blended learning programs in a recent webinar. The Recording and Slide Deck from this webinar and other CEM blended learning strand activities can be found here.
First, Anna Gu from the Christensen Institute shared the important conversation she and Michael Horn had with California superintendents about barriers encountered by superintendents who want to implement blended learning. They then produced the document, “Knocking Down Barriers: California Superintendents and Blended Learning.” In Fall 2013, the Christensen Institute convened a group of superintendents to talk about how to overcome hurdles that inhibit the implementation of blended learning. The conversation fell into two categories: how to redesign teacher roles and how to manage the technology infrastructure. The leadership in the area of redesigning teacher roles requires administrators to deal with teacher contract issues and overall, have open ongoing conversations with teachers about their changing roles and how that may impact the teacher. One other area that schools may find barriers is the use of curriculum materials in both print and digital format. There are “perceived barriers” that keep leaders and teachers from moving forward toward blended learning goals. Identifying these “perceived barriers” and talking about these are important for the implementation of blended learning goals.
Brian Bridges from California shared the importance of longitudinal data and ongoing surveys of schools to understand how blended learning is being used. He oversaw the collection of data from California schools about blended and online learning called the eLearning census. The questions asked are an important guide for other districts and schools to consider as they gather further information about blended and online learning. Over three years, the eLearning Census in California provided some important data to show the increase in use of blended learning. Some of the other important insights provided from the surveys indicated the importance of planning ahead with input from more stakeholders regarding the blended learning implementation and provide more ongoing professional development From a leadership perspective, ongoing data and surveying of stakeholders helps to provide important information and survey metrics that can inform implementation. One of the initiatives in California under the leadership of Brian is the eLearning Strategies Symposium which will take place December 12 and 13, 2014 in San Mateo, Ca. All are invited to attend.
Anne Pasco from Huntley High School in Huntley Illinois shared how their high school implemented blended learning three years ago. At the leadership of the superintendent, the district decided it was important to have a school of choice. They started small with 3 teachers in the first year, with students taking the blended course in the first or last period of the day. The program has now grown to one-third of their school and students can take a blended class at any period during the day. When students do not have to attend their classroom, students can go to stay in commons area of the school, the learning resource center or leave campus. Common assessments in all of the subjects have shown that students do equally well in the blended and the traditional classrooms. Student surveys show that they take more responsibility for their own learning and they like that. Overall, leadership and teacher support systems have grown in a variety of ways including a better understanding for counselors in conversations with students. Students may take either a traditional or blended learning class in this traditional high school.
Travis Phelps works at St. Justin Catholic School in Santa Clara, Ca as part of the Drexel Initiative in the Catholic Diocese of San Jose. The blended learning implementation has taken place at the 8th grade level. The important aspect of blended learning is to start small and build. Overall, he shared the importance of having teachers who are flexible in teaching and with the use of technology. He and other teachers have participated in blended teacher training provided by the University of Santa Clara. He also mentioned the importance of having a supportive principal in implementing blended learning. In addition, he talked about one metric to use regarding teacher implementation is the SAMR model, which is a metric that can be used with teachers to help them understand their implementation level and direction they are heading.
Overall, the important leadership principles shared by the panelists for implementing blended learning included:
- Start small and build
- Get input from a variety of stakeholders as the implementation begins and continues
- Provide a culture of innovation and empowerment support systems for teachers
- Provide a reliable technology infrastructure
- Have ongoing feedback from stakeholders in the form of surveys indicating amount of use and student surveys about their learning
- Identify variety of ongoing metrics by which to measure progress of blended learning implementation